Quote of the Day: Do Something

 

“Those who cry out that the government should ‘do something’ never even ask for data on what has actually happened when the government did something, compared to what actually happened when the government did nothing.” – Thomas Sowell

Another helping of Sowell food. We have been hearing a lot about “doing something” in the aftermath of a tragedy, catastrophe, or a disaster. Of course the responsibility for doing something is always assigned to the government, rather than taking individual responsibility. Yet the truth is, nine times out of ten, nothing need have been done outside of enforcing existing laws or exercising prudence.

The result is generally ill-considered new laws that fail to solve the real problem, inconvenience the innocent, and empower the perpetrators and would-be tyrants within the government.

But hey, if the approach of having the government “do something” has not worked the last 1,000 times it was tried, does not mean it won’t work this time right? We all know what the definition of insanity is.*

* Even if Einstein never said it.

There are 17 comments.

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  1. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Amen.

    • #1
  2. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    You’ll never go wrong with a Thomas Sowell quote.

    I’d like to see a Department of Un-doing in the Cabinet – devoted to repealing the useless laws and petty regulations that have swamped us for so long.  

    • #2
  3. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. There are many open days on the September Signup Sheet, including Monday next week. We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #3
  4. Al French, sad sack Moderator
    Al French, sad sack
    @AlFrench

    “Sowell  food.” Nice.

    • #4
  5. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly
    @Misthiocracy

    When celebrities call on the government to do something, I’m always curious why they automatically go to Congress instead of going to the appropriate State’s legislature.  e.g. Jon Stewart’s crusade on behalf of 9-11 first responders.  Seems like that should be Albany’s responsibility, no?

    • #5
  6. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    “It didn’t work the last 1000 times it was tried because it wasn’t us who was doing it. The difference this time is we are here, and we are so much smarter and more knowledgeable than the people who tried it the previous 1000 times.”

    • #6
  7. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Not government, but I always appreciated that the Missions Committee of a church to which we previously belonged asked of prospective recipients of funding about prior results. 

    I was disappointed to learn that many of those prospective recipients had never before been asked about results. And that some of those prospective results expressed indignation that they were being asked.

    • #7
  8. Al French, sad sack Moderator
    Al French, sad sack
    @AlFrench

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    When celebrities call on the government to do something, I’m always curious why they automatically go to Congress instead of going to the appropriate State’s legislature. e.g. Jon Stewart’s crusade on behalf of 9-11 first responders. Seems like that should be Albany’s responsibility, no?

    Would you rather perform a task once or fifty times?

    • #8
  9. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Jut don’t do something,  stand there!!!

    • #9
  10. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Regarding: “…doing something” in the aftermath of a tragedy, catastrophe, or a disaster…” 

    The call to do something directly in the aftermath is an emotional reaction. Even the people calling for immediate action ought to know that the worst time to make decisions is when emotions are running high. That’s why we count to ten. Why we sleep on it. Why vengeance is served cold. Why we wait a while before hitting “send” on that heated email. 

    When the emotions have cooled, then we can consider the costs and benefits of doing something or of doing nothing. Sometimes something is worth doing. But not always. 

    • #10
  11. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Seawriter: nine times out of ten, nothing need have been done outside of enforcing existing laws or exercising prudence

    …which will not help get anyone elected…

    • #11
  12. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    In this case, the most prudent thing the government could do – maybe the best reason to even have a government there – would have been to restrict building to things that can withstand a hurricane. This wasn’t like a surprise earthquake in Kansas, or a tornado in Boston. This is the Caribbean – they have hurricanes there.  It’s why it looks like it does.

    And I like the way it looks, the way it is.  I’ve sailed through the Abacos, hung out on Green Turtle, Marsh Harbour. I like it a lot. But you live here at your peril. There is NO question about an occasional monster hurricane.

    How do you do this?  I don’t know, the same way smart people do it in other places? In Japan, didn’t they build with light timber and paper, because of the reality of earthquakes? (Maybe I’m remembering reading Clavell.) If you live in Alaska, I assume every house is insulated, because hey, it might snow. 

    There is time between the hurricanes to provision up.  This is not the time to rush generators there, they should have already always been there.

     

    • #12
  13. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Seawriter: nine times out of ten, nothing need have been done outside of enforcing existing laws or exercising prudence

    …which will not help get anyone elected…

    • #13
  14. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Man With the Axe (View Comment):

    Regarding: “…doing something” in the aftermath of a tragedy, catastrophe, or a disaster…”

    The call to do something directly in the aftermath is an emotional reaction. Even the people calling for immediate action ought to know that the worst time to make decisions is when emotions are running high. That’s why we count to ten. Why we sleep on it. Why vengeance is served cold. Why we wait a while before hitting “send” on that heated email.

    When the emotions have cooled, then we can consider the costs and benefits of doing something or of doing nothing. Sometimes something is worth doing. But not always.

    You are assuming the people calling for immediate action are interested in solutions that actually do good. But, my experience is that usually the people doing the appealing are more interesting in accruing money or power, and are making their appeal in the immediate aftermath precisely because it is an emotional reaction, and the most likely time to get people to hand over money and power. Actual solutions are far down their priority list.

    • #14
  15. JamesSalerno Coolidge
    JamesSalerno
    @JamesSalerno

    My brother visited last month and I’ve been turning him onto Sowell. I’ve got a few of his books on my shelf so we started pulling them down and picking pages at random. At least one brilliant, quotable succinct nugget of info was on each page. Every. Single. Time.

    • #15
  16. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Man With the Axe (View Comment):

    Regarding: “…doing something” in the aftermath of a tragedy, catastrophe, or a disaster…”

    The call to do something directly in the aftermath is an emotional reaction. Even the people calling for immediate action ought to know that the worst time to make decisions is when emotions are running high. That’s why we count to ten. Why we sleep on it. Why vengeance is served cold. Why we wait a while before hitting “send” on that heated email.

    When the emotions have cooled, then we can consider the costs and benefits of doing something or of doing nothing. Sometimes something is worth doing. But not always.

    You are assuming the people calling for immediate action are interested in solutions that actually do good. But, my experience is that usually the people doing the appealing are more interesting in accruing money or power, and are making their appeal in the immediate aftermath precisely because it is an emotional reaction, and the most likely time to get people to hand over money and power. Actual solutions are far down their priority list.

    You are right. I’m thinking not of the politicians who will always call for something to be done, but of the ordinary people who should know better, but often don’t. 

    • #16
  17. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Man With the Axe (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Man With the Axe (View Comment):

    Regarding: “…doing something” in the aftermath of a tragedy, catastrophe, or a disaster…”

    The call to do something directly in the aftermath is an emotional reaction. Even the people calling for immediate action ought to know that the worst time to make decisions is when emotions are running high. That’s why we count to ten. Why we sleep on it. Why vengeance is served cold. Why we wait a while before hitting “send” on that heated email.

    When the emotions have cooled, then we can consider the costs and benefits of doing something or of doing nothing. Sometimes something is worth doing. But not always.

    You are assuming the people calling for immediate action are interested in solutions that actually do good. But, my experience is that usually the people doing the appealing are more interesting in accruing money or power, and are making their appeal in the immediate aftermath precisely because it is an emotional reaction, and the most likely time to get people to hand over money and power. Actual solutions are far down their priority list.

    You are right. I’m thinking not of the politicians who will always call for something to be done, but of the ordinary people who should know better, but often don’t.

    Most of us ordinary people don’t generally recognize how much emotion drives our decision making, so we rarely think about how often a decision would benefit from delay and analysis. Though if we look back on some of our decisions (car purchases, boat purchases, clothing purchases, some job decisions, etc.) we might realize how often bad decisions come out of a failure to wait and analyze. 

    • #17

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